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VICTIMS OF DIESEL EXPOSURES

Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Published on June 28th, 2019 by Andrew L. Hughes

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is an aggressive bone marrow cancer that can also be found in the blood. In this cancer, cells that should turn into white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets are mutated. Because of this mutation, the cells do not mature properly, and they are unable to fight off diseases. These immature cells duplicate quickly, causing the cancer.

AML is also known by many other names, including acute myelocytic leukemia, acute myelogenous leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia, and acute non-lymphocytic leukemia.

We now know that exposures to certain substances and chemicals like benzene, radiation and certain chemotherapy medications can increase one’s risk of getting AML.

AML and Diesel Exhaust/Benzene

Exposure to benzene is one of the most common risk factors associated with AML. Benzene is a component of petroleum products including diesel fuel and gasoline and is often used as a base material in products like plastics, degreasers, solvents, lubricants, pesticides, rubbers, dyes, resins, and nylons.

Furthermore, gasoline and diesel can be seen as triggers of AML because of the benzene found in those fuels. Limited contact with diesel fuel might not prove harmful to one’s health, however chronic exposures to fuels and exhausts have been shown to increase the risk of cancers including AML.

According to the Department of Medicine at Weill Medical College at the Methodist Hospital of Houston, AML has been proven to be caused by benzene. In fact, in certain cases, our experts can pinpoint genetic damage in AML patients that is consistent with past benzene exposures.  These “biomarkers” go a long way in proving the relationship between the benzene exposure and the resulting AML.  In settings like the railroad industry and manufacturing plants, benzene exposure is higher than usual. Because of this, industrial workers often have a higher risk of getting AML when compared to the general public.

Other Causes of AML

Creosote and coal tar are also proven triggers of AML. These are most commonly seen in chimney residue and appears in the aftermath of burning wood and other flammable items.

An oily mixture of the two solutions is known as carbolineum. Carbolineum is rot-resistant, so it is often used for preservation of wooden structures such as railroad ties and electric poles. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that coal tar creosote (carbolineum) is carcinogenic to humans.  Our medical experts can tie extensive creosote exposures to AML.

According to a study conducted by the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, workers who are exposed to trichloroethylene on the job have a higher risk of getting AML. Trichloroethylene is a colorless organic chemical that is primarily used as a degreaser for metal equipment in industrial settings.  Many railroad car department employees and machinists worked with trichloroethylene in the past few decades.

Pesticides and herbicides are most often found in the farming industry and have been known to contribute to a multitude of disorders and illnesses in humans. Benzene is often used as a base in herbicides and pesticides, and therefore these chemicals can be associated with AML.

Formaldehyde is a strong-smelling gas used in manufacturing, as well as many household products. Chronic exposures to formaldehyde at increased levels can be harmful. This high-level exposure occurs especially in the health care industry, funeral homes, and industrial settings that use resins, industrial disinfectants, and embalmers. Formaldehyde exposures have been linked to a higher risk of getting AML.

Importance of AML Screenings

Symptoms of AML include unexplained and unintentional weight loss, fatigue, high fever, and night sweats. Easily bruising can also be considered a sign that AML is present.

AML spreads quickly, and therefore early detection and treatment is crucial. In order to diagnose AML, doctors can use a variety of methods. Blood tests and bone marrow tests are most commonly used, as they look at the site of the cancer directly and can test for inconsistencies. Lumbar punctures and imaging tests can also be used to diagnose the cancer.  Many hospitals will utilize cytogenetic testing during the diagnostic staging.

Once it has been determined that a patient has AML, treatment methods will be chosen. Patients can treat their cancer through radiation, chemotherapy, stem cell transplants, or targeted therapy. Specific treatment will depend on whether it has spread to other parts of the body, as there is no “grading” system with AML that determines if some cases are more advanced than others.

Contact a Diesel Injury Lawyer

 If you believe you are suffering from Acute Myeloid Leukemia due to diesel exhaust or other toxic workplace exposures, our team at Diesel Injury Law can fight on your behalf. AML cases are often brought against the manufacturers of the products that caused the disease.  In the case of railroad employees, we typically target the railroad employer.  Establishing medical causation (that the toxins caused the AML) and determining the appropriate legal claims can be complicated. Contact an experienced attorney at Diesel Injury Law today to get started.

Illustrative AML Case Verdicts

$824,000 verdict — a man who used benzene-containing printing solvent as a vocational high school student and then in the workforce for three years was awarded damages after he was diagnosed with AML. In the case was brought against the manufacturer of the benzene-containing printing solvent, U.S. Steel, it was proven that the company was on notice that benzene could cause cancer, yet it continued to use benzene in its solvents.

$7,500,000 verdict – 51-year-old maintenance-of-way employee of Union Pacific Railroad  Co. was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Plaintiff worked for the railroad for 28 years, where he was exposed on a daily basis to benzene-heavy chemicals including creosote, coal tar distillates, carbolineum, naphtha, and various cleaning solvents.

         (James Brown v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.)

$7,067,234 verdict – 57-year-old equilibrium calibrator was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, and later, acute myeloid leukemia. He had been employed as a painter for 8 years, working with paints and solvents that contained high levels of benzene. At trial, it was found that the plaintiff’s employer had received warnings of bone marrow diseases being tied to benzene, however the company failed to discontinue the use of its products or place warning labels on the paint products.

(Virgil Hood and Lorrie Hood v. Akzo Nobel Coatings Inc., Ampac Chemical Company Inc., E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co., Exxon Mobil Corp., Kano Laboratories Inc., PPG Industries Inc., Tempco Products Co., and The Sherwin-Williams Co)

$3,520,000 verdict – plaintiff was a contracted tanker truck driver for a period of 6 years. He regularly transported pyrolysis gasoline, which contained 40 percent benzene. Plaintiff was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome due to the benzene exposure, which soon turned into acute myeloid leukemia and eventually took his life.

(Case Cheri Dahlin, Individually and on Behalf of the Estate of Dean Dahlin, Deceased v. Lyondell Chemical Company, Equistar Chemicals, LP, Equistar GP, LLC, Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, Getty Chemical Company, ACC Chemical Company, Occidental Chemical Corporation, CF Industries Holdings, Inc. and CF Industries Sales, LLC / Archer-Daniels-Midland Company v. Equistar Chemicals, LP, Equistar GP, LLC, Lyondell Chemical Company, and Occidental Chemical Corporation / CF Industries Holdings, Inc. v. Lyondell Chemical Company, Occidental Chemical Corporation Equistar Chemicals, LP, Equistar GP, LLC, ACC Chemical Company and Getty Chemical Company)

$2,296,000 verdict – plaintiff was a lab technician for Chevron Research & Technology Co., where he tested the performance of oils in both diesel and gasoline engines. He was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, which later metastasized into acute myeloid leukemia. It was found that the benzene levels in the gasoline was the cause of his diagnosis.

(Antonio Laico, et al. v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc. et al.)

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